Remodeling Success: Relationship vs. Cost

We all understand that when we purchase expensive items (car, furniture, and jewelry), the assumption is that the price matters.  Value and quality should be uniform in identical products.  That same assumption is often used in remodeling our homes, the largest purchase and investment most of us make.  We transfer these same attitudes and assumptions to selecting a remodeler.  There is not a correlation in remodeling between low cost and value and service.  Remodelers are often asked to review detailed plans and provide free estimates in the hope of being selected on a basis of cost.  This creates a recipe for a doomed project.  Factors such as increased construction time, misunderstood assumptions, poor quality materials, weak performing subcontractors, and a spiraling downward relationship are typical results of this selection system.  Other outcomes of selecting a remodeler based mainly on costs are as follows:

  1. Poor subcontractor selection based primarily on low bids for work.
  2. Subcontractors selected whose workers change constantly and many are illegal.
  3. Subcontractors who are uninsured or underinsured.
  4. Subcontractors who have difficulty with schedules and starting dates.
  5. Plan reviewing is held to a minimum. A thorough plan review to uncover problems, missing details, and engineering cost alternatives require many hours of staff work. Most remodelers cannot dedicate this time away from project supervision and management.
  6. There is a much higher incentive to use lower quality materials, non-standard methods, and to cut corners improving a profit set too low.
  7. The Remodeler will typically miss or underestimate work to be performed.  Furthermore there is a temptation present to lower his profit in order to be selected.  This is a major catalyst for financial problems during the project.  It also encourages questionable and unethical business practices regarding the use of client funds.

Then how should you select a remodeler for a successful project?  Like most things in our lives that produce happiness and success, the relationship is the key.  Selecting a remodeler through relationship building creates trust, confidence, and peace of mind.  By interviewing prospective remodelers thoroughly, the best “fit and match” should become evident quickly.  In order to evaluate each remodeler fairly, preparation is prudent.  Prepare a set of questions in advance.  This should include:

  1. Years in business
  2. Certifications
  3. Registration of remodeler and projects completed
  4. Awards
  5. Professional Affiliations
  6. Office and Staff make up and duties
  7. Project Management (systems & schedules)
  8. Similar Projects
  9. Processes and communication
  10. Billing and Change Order Procedures
  11. Current Work Load

Also a visit to their office to meet their staff and project manager’s helps solidify their presence.  Ask to see some projects that are underway which will enable you to see how they actually build and keep the work site.

The cost of the project is important but it should only be one of many factors in the selection process.  Over design and the cost of products typically are the reasons a project is not built.  The investment no longer makes sense.   However when this occurs, the temptation to hire the low bid remodeler becomes strong because of the investment in time and money spent on the design and drawings.

Invest your time and energy in the early stage of the project.  Interview and select a remodeler and build a solid relationship throughout the design and construction phases.  Your project’s success depends on it.